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Cablegate: Romania Election Update: Another Day, Another Cabinet

VZCZCXRO4750
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHBM #0758 3141602
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101602Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0066
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000758

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

DEPT FOR EUR/CE ASCHEIBE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV RO
SUBJECT: ROMANIA Election Update: Another Day, Another Cabinet

Ref. Bucharest 745 and previous

1. (SBU) Summary. President Basescu's latest PM designate, Liviu
Negoita, submitted his proposed Cabinet and governing program to
Parliament on November 9. The roster is similar to the recently
rejected Croitoru cabinet (reftel), except for three "independent"
ministers considered PDL sympathizers. The ad hoc parliamentary
majority of PDL's rivals PSD, PNL and UDMR reiterated their
determination to vote down the Negoita Cabinet, but at the same time
sought procedural ways to delay the vote and avoid triggering early
Parliamentary elections. The legal process ahead remains murky, and
unless electoral calculations abruptly change a quick vote on the
Negoita Cabinet is unlikely. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The proposed 14-member Cabinet is identical to that of
former PM designate Croitoru (reftel), with three exceptions:
Gabriel Oprea for Interior, Cristian Anton Irimie for Health and
Valeriu Tabara for Agriculture. As Social Democratic Party (PSD)
chairman for a Bucharest suburb, Oprea served briefly as Interior
Minister in January 2009 before PSD leaders forced him out over his
alleged ties to Basescu. Oprea, whom Basescu recently promoted to
four-star general (retired), now leads the newly created 20-member
"independent caucus" in the Chamber of Deputies. This catchall
group includes defectors from PSD and the National Liberal Party
(PNL) whom Basescu's Liberal Democratic Party (PDL) has managed to
co-opt.

3. (SBU) Agriculture nominee Tabara held the same position in
1994-96. He left the Party of Romanians' National Unity (PUNR) in
2002 to join the Democratic Party in 2002. Health nominee Irimie is
currently a low profile State Secretary in the Ministry of Health,
named to that position by PDL. A gynecologist by trade, he was
previously head of the Suceava County public health department.

4. (U) The PSD, PNL and Hungarian Democratic Union in Romania (UDMR)
quickly declared their opposition to the Negoita nomination, and
once again reiterated their demand that independent Sibiu Mayor
Klaus Johannis be nominated as PM. PSD and PNL described the
Negoita nomination and the related process as a "travesty." Even the
nominee himself was skeptical that Parliament would be in any hurry
to start hearings on the ministerial nominations, given that most
members are out in their in their districts campaigning for their
parties' presidential candidates. Negoita nevertheless condemned
the opposition's "irresponsibility" in delaying proceedings.

5. (SBU) As previously reported, a second failed PM nomination could
allow the President - whether Traian Basescu or his replacement - to
dissolve Parliament should the Negoita cabinet be rejected before
January 4, 2010. However, there is still some debate among legal
scholars as to whether these votes would still count when the next
president takes office after December 6. In any event, individual
MPs clearly want to delay the second vote as long as possible, to
avoid early parliamentary elections and keep their seats.

6. (SBU) Additional legal questions remain. Under parliamentary
rules, the leadership of both houses has 15 days to schedule a time
for the PM designate to present his proposed Cabinet and program.
As Negoita filed on November 9, the deadline is November 24. Only
Senate President Mircea Geoana (PSD) and Chamber of Deputies Speaker
Roberta Anastase (PDL) can convene the respective leaderships, but
Geoana is on the campaign trail and his stand-in Teodor Melescanu
(PNL) seems unsure whether he has the authority to convene such a
meeting.

7. (SBU) Also complicating matters, the 45-day interim status
expires on November for current PDL Cabinet members holding dual
portfolios - which they took over when PSD left the government.
Under normal circumstances new full ministers would need to be named
and confirmed by Parliament for the former PSD portfolios. However,
PDL legal experts declare this issue moot following Parliament's
rejection of the Croitoru cabinet.

8. (SBU) Comment: In an apparent effort to obscure their reluctance
to formally vote down the second proposed cabinet, the opposition
has chosen another line of attack. On November 10 PNL Chairman Crin
Antonescu called for a complaint to the Constitutional Court that
President Basescu had provoked a constitutional dispute with
Parliament over how to name a new PM. PDL parliamentary contacts
told us the likely delay of the vote on the Negoita cabinet works to
their advantage, as they expect that political realignments after
the first round of presidential voting November 22 would strengthen
their hand in Parliament. This assumes that Basescu performs well
in the first round, which in turn will depend on whether voters
blame him or the opposition for creating this political crisis.
GITENSTEIN

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